News.bytes News.bytes Extra, issue 260

Prescribed burns at Fort Ord

Military ordnance and fire are literally an explosive combination. Place them on the Central California Coast and they also become politically explosive.

With that in mind, Bureau of Land Management managers at Fort Ord are working to address public concerns while still using prescribed burns for resource management.

Parts of Fort Ord are covered with unexploded ordnance left over from Army military exercises. As sections of the base are cleared of ordnance, they are transferred to BLM management.

BLM started gradually introducing a prescribed burn program in 2005. About 50 brush piles generated by clearing fire breaks are planned to be burned in the next few months “These projects are part of a fuel break system designed to protect firefighters, aid in public safety and assist in suppression of wildland fires,” said Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist Mike Chiodini.

BLM sponsored a tour of the piles on December 2 and is conducting other outreach efforts. In addition to the usual concerns about the possibility of fire escaping, some residents have expressed concerns about toxic smoke if ordnance is in the piles.

Below: Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist Mike Chiodini discusses brushpile-burning plans during the tour.

BLM has been working closely with regulators including the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District to help ease those concerns, he said. The piles don’t contain ordnance and follow strict requirement to prevent escapes and protect air quality. Two firefighters with a tanker truck are on site when the piles are burned.

For the longer term, BLM will be developing more detailed planning documents, said Eric Morgan, Fort Ord project manager. Fort Ord is contained in the Resource Management Plan being finalized for the Hollister Field Office. A more detailed planning effort for Fort Ord as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern is scheduled to start later this year.

- Dave Christie, 12/06

BLM California News.bytes, issue 260